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Public Health teams adjusts to COVID-19

A public health technician takes the temperature of a fellow guardsman at the 171st Air Refueling Wing June 3, 2020. Masks are to be worn at all times except when isolated from others in a private space. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Zoe M. Wockenfuss)

A public health technician takes the temperature of a fellow guardsman at the 171st Air Refueling Wing June 3, 2020. Masks are to be worn at all times except when isolated from others in a private space. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Zoe M. Wockenfuss)

Coraopolis, Pa. --

Everyone has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in one way or another, big or small. For the 171st Medical Group’s Public Health Office, it has been a whirlwind. Transitioning from having one full time member to providing 24/7 phone support is just one of the changes they’ve had to adjust to.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Public Health office has been the epicenter for medical screening, referrals, quarantine and restriction of movement recommendations, pre- and post-activation medical processing and on-going follow-up of members reporting COVID-19 symptoms or exposures,” said Major Lindsay Jones, Public Health Emergency Officer.

All of the additional duties the members of public health office are doing in response to the pandemic are on top of their regular day-to-day tasks such as deployment processing, food safety and occupational health physicals.

“Our biggest adjustment would be the stoppage of patient care,” said Technical Sgt. Jacob Linsenbigler, Public Health Technician. “Pre-COVID, we would allow walk-ins and have office hours for members who needed to complete medical requirements. Now, we have gone to a scheduling-based patient care approach.”

They have to document all after hours calls relating to COVID-19 and follow-up with individuals currently being tracked for exposure or illness. These seemingly simple tasks are part of what keep the members of the 171st ARW up and running. Without being cautious and knowledgeable about the risks of COVID-19 the base wouldn’t be able to continue with their essential missions.

Public health has a yearly requirement to complete a Public Health Emergency Exercise and with the outbreak of COVID-19 they have been able to put their previous plan into action in a real world emergency. In addition to testing its effectiveness the members of public health can make necessary changes for future pandemics.

The Public Health team has created networks of communication not just with county and civilian entities but with surrounding Air Force installations to stay current on COVID-19 statistics as well as coordinating proper emergency responses.

Everyone is adjusting to a new normal since the outbreak of COVID-19 and the 171st Public Health team is there to help.